Long ago, before there was the internet, I was so much more persistently and baldly ignorant about various and sundry things that interested me. Example: I just got a guitar – well, in October – and resolved that I would finally learn to play after all these years. Needless to say, I can find lots of videos and online resources. It’s highly satisfactory. When I tried to learn guitar in college, only to give up quickly, I had none of that. (I had a teacher but, looking back, he was a bad teacher. Probably it was my fault, too.) I’m a lefty, which means I now occasionally Google up things to to with left-handed guitar. Which means that I randomly found a video of former Cars guitarist Elliot Easton musing about growing up a left-handed guitarist. Not a thrilling interview, but he remarks, off-handedly, that he had been playing left-handed for some time before learning that left-handed guitars – not just restrung righties – actually existed. And then he muses generally about how little information you had. You were just staring at a few LP covers, wondering what the hell was going on. You were pretty sure to suffer some or other stupidly and persistently huge hole in your knowledge-base, due to the accident of not happening to know someone who told you the thing any fool would Google up in a minute today. I think about the things that interested me, growing up – like science fiction novels, for example. And comics. And I realize that almost everything I knew about these things that mattered a great deal to me (did you notice?) I learned by talking to about six people, four of whom were kids like me, and going to four different stores in my hometown. (And sex. Did I mention that, as a young teen, I was quite intrigued by the topic of sex, but – sadly – lacked reliable sources of information and reportage on the subject.) I suspect you could provide your own examples, if you grew up pre-internet. And I feel it’s pretty important, somehow, that those of you who grew up post-internet probably can’t provide your own examples. Or rather fewer.
Of course, this is a flagrantly obvious thought: the internet = important! I don’t really know what to say about how it has made a difference, specifically, that things like serious young left-handed guitarists who don’t even know there are such things as left-handed guitars are now more infrequent occurrences. These sorts of minor epistemic follies tended to elude systematic documentation. Information now gets spread more easily and therefore efficiently. That’s for sure! But I feel there’s more to be said about the ways in which the shape of an individual’s whole view of the world used to be a lot less …(what’s the word?) … internetish? Maybe I should Google up something about Marx + “the idiocy of rural life”. I know that’s Marx’s phrase but I’ve never read what he had to say on the subject. (Well there you go!) Possibly there is some analogy to be drawn.